Conformations of N-Heterocyclic Carbene Ligands in Ruthenium Complexes Relevant to Olefin Metathesis

The structure of ruthenium-based olefin metathesis catalyst 3 and model π-complex 5 in solution and in the solid state are reported. The N-tolyl ligands, due to their lower symmetry than the traditional N-mesityl substituents, complicate this analysis, but ultimately provide explanation for the enhanced reactivity of 3 relative to standard catalyst 2. The tilt of the N-tolyl ring provides additional space near the ruthenium center, which is consistent with the enhanced reactivity of 3 toward sterically demanding substrates. Due to this tilt, the more sterically accessible face bears the two methyl substituents of the N-aryl rings. These experimental studies are supported by computational studies of these complexes by DFT. The experimental data provides a means to validate the accuracy of the B3LYP and M06 functionals. B3LYP provides geometries that match X-ray crystal structural data more closely, though it leads to slightly less (∼0.5 kcal mol−1) accuracy than M06 most likely because it underestimates attractive noncovalent interactions.